Matt Froman’s passion and continued advocacy for the old Phoenix Pharmacy building has not gone unnoticed. He has invested years in finding a new owner to redevelop the 1922 structure – and as luck may have it a decision might be made within the week.
Located at 6615 SE Foster Road in Portland, the vacant two-story building with a rounded-brick facade was purchased by Matt’s father, Buck, in 1999 and identified as a significant neighborhood historic landmark. Buck is deeply invested in this neighborhood having owned a local stove business nearby on Foster Road since 1974. Both father and son hope the building will be transformed into a place that community members can be proud of and cause a business revitalization domino effect for other lackluster buildings in the neighborhood.
The Phoenix Pharmacy building was built by John Leach in 1922. Although it has been vacant for 13 years, it was once the east side’s “largest suburban drug store” and sat centered at the core of the community. Old Christmas letters and other writings tell of John’s purchase of the building – which he named “Phoenix” because it had been said that a prior owner had actually burned the building down and it was resurrected.
Buck’s original dream was to move his stove store to the Phoenix Pharmacy, which simply never happened. Nevertheless, his admiration for the building’s history and charming façade has prevented him from selling the property. With hopes to restore the building, Matt has created a website and Facebook page to raise awareness about the family’s mission to redevelop the iconic structure. Currently the building has significant life safety and seismic issues and has been marked with a “U” by the Fire Bureau to denote “unsafe”.
“My dream was to take it off my father’s hands and redevelop it myself,” Matt said, “but I don’t really have the experience or, more importantly, the money to do it.” He has been conversing with developers and the Portland Development Commission (PDC) to spark their interest and obtain advice.
Today, Mercy Corps Northwest and Rose Community Development are thinking about purchasing the building as a pilot project that would allow neighbors to invest in the property. “You’re looking at a shell,” Matt said. “That’s good and bad. You can make it anything you want. But at the same time, it’s going to take a lot of work to get there.” The idea is to give lower income residents a “stake in the upside of gentrification,” said Mercy Corps Northwest director John Haines, by allowing them to invest in property with increasing value for as little as $10 a month. “No one in the country has created anything like this for unaccredited investors,” Haines said. “Our vision is to create a model in Portland and then see it replicated elsewhere in the country by others.” If the non-profit deal falls through, Matt said, he’ll put the building back on the market and wait for the right developer.
Restore Oregon tips our hat to the concept of reviving this historic gem and creating a neighborhood space that community members can be proud to call their own.
See the Oregonian for more on this story.